Book Review: Killing Marias, by Claudia Castro Luna

Book Review: Killing Marias
by David Beaumier
Two Sylvias Press, 2017

Claudia Castro Luna serves as Washington State’s current poet laureate, and she holds a masters in urban planning and an MFA in poetry. She came to the US as a refugee from El Salvador and feels a strong connection to our neighbors in Juárez, Mexico, just under a half an hour drive from El Paso, TX. Her newest book, the resonant Killing Marías, delves into the open wound on the United States’s southern border, and forces the reader examine their own responsibility in the Juárez femicides. 

Some readers may miss the depth Castro Luna’s work embodies with her remix of history. Still, each free verse or prose poem shows the reader a bright flash of an extinguished life through the journey of forty-three poems, each honoring a María murdered between now and 1993. The title of each poem joins the name of one María to a part of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, empowering each titular woman. In choosing the name María, Castro Luna also pays homage to the name as one of the most common given to indigenous women in Juárez.

Her poem “María Rocío Cosmic Vision” drives this home with its five short lines. 

the privilege
of reading
these lines

Each of the poems stands as a direct address that lifts up the murdered María, accuses the killer, or points at the privilege betrayed by the reader through their very ability to read the words on the page. Like Gloria Anzaldúa, Castro Luna sprinkles her writing with both Spanish and English, though the primary audience for this book could speak only English and still appreciate the text. Castro Luna’s words to stand strong against violence bred from misogyny insist on drawing the reader through in one sitting. Killing Marías gives a weight that does not let go.

DAVID BEAUMIER‘S true love is Argentine tango. When he drags himself away from dance long enough to write and submit work, his stories have appeared in EWU’s Inroads, WWU’s Suffix, and Whatcom Writes’ Choices and Resistance. He worked as the Assistant Publishing Director at Village Books and now edits professionally part time. He’s currently pursuing his Masters in English Studies at WWU while also serving as the project manager for The Writers’ Corner, which is expected to have a 3rd publication in the fall of 2020. He has lived in the Pacific Northwest since 2009.